a little madness

A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free -Nikos Kazantzakis


Archive for July, 2012

New Android Ant Tasks: lint and ndkbuild

I’m back into Android development these days, and expect plenty more to come (especially with a Nexus 7 due to arrive today!). So my Android-related projects on GitHub should be getting some much-needed attention. In fact I’ve already added a couple of new tasks to zutubi-android-ant (my extensions to the Android SDK Ant tooling): zaa:lint and zaa:ndkbuild.

The names of the tasks are pretty self-explanatory. The zaa:lint task runs Android Lint, which checks your source for common bugs and problems. If you don’t use lint, do yourself a favour and add it to your builds, it will save you a lot of grief! The zaa:ndkbuild task runs the Android NDK build command, which builds your native code.

Both tasks are simple extensions of the venerable exec task which make it simpler to run the underlying tools regardless of their install location and host operating system. This makes it easier to write machine-independent targets in your build files, which is great for teams working in diverse environments (and, of course, your continuous integration server). The tasks rely on the standard Android Ant properties (i.e. sdk.dir and ndk.dir) to locate the tools.

Because the tasks extend the built-in exec, they support all of the standard configuration. Adding arguments, tweaking the environment, and so on should all be familiar to Ant users. In future I may expand the tasks further to support some more tailored configuration, specific to the tools, but they are already fully-capable and very useful.

You’ll find more documentation in the README over at the zutubi-android-ant repository. Expect more tasks to follow, too!

Android: Attaching Sources to Libraries in Eclipse

Since ADT r17, Android projects in Eclipse have had a nice property: all jars in your libs directory have been automatically picked up by Eclipse projects under a magic “Android Dependencies” entry in the build path. Ant builds use the same conventions, so adding a library is as simple as dropping it into the right directory. Unfortunately, though, this magic came with a major limitation: there was no way to attach sources to these libraries (see issue 27940). This led me to duplicate build path entries manually just to get source attachments.

Good news: in the just-released r20 version of ADT, Google have provided a solution to this problem. It’s not well advertised, but if you check out comment 21 on the aforementioned issue, you see that by creating a properties file for each library, you can tell ADT where to find the sources. So, for example, if you have a jar named:


you can create a properties file alongside it named:


Within the properties file you can add a src property set to the relative (or absolute, but that’s version-control-unfriendly) path of the source jar, zip or directory. Say, like me, you put it in the libs/src subdirectory, your properties file might look like:


Once you’ve added the properties file, refresh the project in Eclipse and voilĂ : the sources will be attached! A similar property named doc is supported for javadoc attachments.

Although this new feature is very welcome, I feel like it could use a bit more fine tuning. The main issue is the need to create a separate properties file for each jar. I keep my source jars in predictable locations, with conventional names, so I should be able to configure the convention once and have everything Just Work from then on. Heck, I’m not sure why there isn’t a default convention, which I could just follow with no further configuration!